The Importance of Knowing your Motivations


This study found that an in-depth understanding and matching of mentors’ motivations for mentoring may allow programs to create better matches that last longer, thus improving the experience for both mentors and mentees. Researchers found that mentors who felt like their motivations were being matched by their mentoring experience were most satisfied with the relationship. Greater satisfaction may make mentors more likely to be happy while mentoring and to mentor for longer, thus improving mentees’ experiences as well as their own. Motivations were described as including desires to: express their values (“values”); gain understanding of themselves and others (“understanding”); socialize more (“social”); get career experience (“career”); enhance their self-esteem (“enhancement”); and to protect themselves from painful feelings like guilt or loneliness (“protective”). The two most common motivations were values and understanding, while the motivations most often fulfilled were values, social, enhancement and protective motivations (with understanding the least fulfilled). Most mentors wanted to mentor again regardless of whether their motivations were fulfilled, showing that mentors may not be aware or can’t predict the benefits they will get from mentoring.

Thus, programs may be able to improve and lengthen mentoring experiences, and attract more mentors, if they identify mentors’ motivations, seek to fulfill these motivations, describe how motivations might be fulfilled in their advertising, and help mentors become aware of all the benefits they get from mentoring. Programs may therefore wish to encourage mentors to reflect deeply on their motivations and describe them to staff early on, such that matches can be tailored to these motivations when appropriate. For example, mentors who express a value of commitment to public service for people less financially secure as their main motivation for mentoring could be placed with a low-income, higher-risk mentee. Mentors who list socializing as a motivation could be placed in larger schools with many mentors, as opposed to smaller schools or other settings. Once the match has been made, programs may also wish to check in with mentors as to whether their motivations are being fulfilled during the match, and staff can suggest changes to be made if they are not (e.g. training in communication skills, activity changes, ongoing support from fellow mentors and staff, etc.) Programs can then monitor whether improved motivation fulfillment leads to greater mentor satisfaction, resulting in higher mentee satisfaction and well-being as well. Finally, programs may wish to help mentors become aware of all the benefits they get from mentoring, as this may increase mentor satisfaction and motivation to mentor for longer.

Mentoring Central offers more information in course one, Building the Foundation. Mentors can take pre-training survey 1 to evaluate their motivations for mentoring. Lesson 2: Motivations and Expectations, provides details on the different types of motivations and their impact on the mentoring relationship. 



What was the purpose of this study? 
To understand what the mentors see as their motivations for, and perceived benefits from, mentoring; and to examine how fulfillment of these motivations affects the desire to mentor again, as well as how it impacts the experiences of mentors and potentially mentees.

Who were the mentors?
31 volunteer adults from the community   

What type of mentoring was provided?
School-based individual

What did the researchers find?
Potential mentoring motivations were described as values, social, career, understanding (of themselves and others), enhancement (helps mentors feel useful) and protective  (helps mentors have fewer painful feelings such as loneliness or guilt). Consistent with prior research, results showed that two of the most common mentor motivations were to express important values and gain greater understanding. Some mentors, primarily under age 40, expressed gaining career experience as a motivation. Researchers found that mentors who saw their motivations as being matched by the perceived benefits of mentoring tended to have greater satisfaction with their mentoring experience, but matching motivations did not directly affect mentors’ plans to mentor in the future, suggesting that mentors may not be aware of all the benefits they receive from mentoring. Mentors reported many benefits from mentoring however, including from its fulfilling their values, social, enhancement and protective motivations. The motivation to understand was not often fulfilled. Fulfilling mentors’ motivations may therefore improve their experiences, possibly increasing the length and quality of the mentoring relationship and thereby improving mentees’ experiences as well.


Source: Caldarella, P., Gomm, R.J., Shatzer, R.H., & Wall, D.G. (2010). School-based mentoring: A study of volunteer motivations and benefits. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 2, 199-215.